Netanyahu's political prospects are also improved because his main opponents have even less military background than he does and they have been running a campaign that focused primarily on economic and social issues, and now the focus has been shifted back to security.
Netanyahu's position could still be precarious.
His popularity could take a beating if a ground operation goes awry or, alternatively, if he is perceived to have halted the campaign before reaching its goal — the end of rocket fire toward southern Israel.
Olmert's approval numbers plummeted during the Lebanon war in 2006, when a ground operation produced large Israeli casualties and failed to stop Hezbollah guerrillas from firing rockets into Israel.
"You'd have to be a saint for these thoughts not to pass in the mind of a politician, and we are not dealing with saints here," wrote Sima Kadmon, the Yediot Ahronot daily's political columnist.
The Haaretz poll showed that 63 percent of Israelis rejected the notion that Netanyahu's main motive for the attack was political, which may help explain why Israel's notoriously rancorous political system has been largely supportive of the offensive.
"We are not criticizing him now because we are in a state of war and we want to win and restore quiet to southern Israel," said Yoel Hasson, an opposition lawmaker from the centrist Kadima Party and a frequent Netanyahu critic. "When it comes to Hamas, there is no right and no left in Israel, no coalition and no opposition."
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